WHICH COMPETENCES AND SKILLS DO WORKERS NEED IN THE FUTURE? (1)
This question is currently one of the hottest questions and topics in education. Prof. Dr. Tanja Bipp and two of her PhD students and researchers from other faculties of the University of Wuerzburg are currently working on exactly this question. Prof. Bipp and her team are particularly focusing on the effect of digitalization on individual employees in small and medium sized companies. The focus is narrowed down on especially white-collar workers – people working in offices – and generations that are in the labor market today, which have not been growing up with new technologies for most parts, in contrast to digital natives. Part 1 of the project concentrates on the demand of certain skills and competencies that employees need, dealing with new technologies and how they can be built and develop sustainably. Prof. Bipp and her team are currently working on a model and a scientific approach to measure and improve necessary digital competencies. What can be pointed out so far is that there are critical competences that will be necessary for all occupations. Along with that, there is a series of specific skills and competences needed for individual occupations. As the project is still in progress, there are already some interesting results (support what we know from a scientific approach perspective). Besides the need for ICT competences, one very important skill will be critical thinking and the evaluation of complex information (2).
JOB DESIGN & CRAFTING
Part 2 of the project focusses on „job design“. How can people be supported in future working environments and which resources are needed? New technologies can be resources that can support and shape the work-life of tomorrow. Job crafting is dealing with the question, what people can do themselves to design and adapt and shape the workplace of the future, and therefore adjust the job according to their personal needs and interests (3). This includes tasks (e.g., looking for challenges, reducing demands at work), relationships (e.g., seeking for social support), and cognitive aspects.
For example, people could choose to focus on some tasks more than others. Of course, this setup needs a special coordination, as there is always work that has to be done and the selections of employees are interdependent. From a mental or mindset perspective, the concept tries to create awareness that the job someone is doing has an impact on others and society. This field of research started in a hospital environment. Here, the cleaning personal had two specific views about their jobs. First, some saw it as „I’m getting paid to clean here“. Second, there was a group of employees who saw their job as making an important contribution to the main goal of a hospital – helping patients becoming healthy. This example shows that it is important how people see their jobs and the impacts they have on others (4). In the context of the current research project, Prof. Bipp and her team are trying to apply the concept of job crafting to development and implications of digitalization transformation and support people in crafting their jobs in a positive way.
It becomes obvious, that job crafting and the adaption on work to a new (digital) environment affords a change in peoples‘ (and organizations‘) mindsets – keys to success and performance are passion, lifelong-learning, networks, and awareness for the impact of individuals‘ contribution. Consequently, the concept of job crafting is an interesting approach that has the power to improve sustainably performance and satisfaction in the working environment of the future.
Sidenote: The approach, that companies have started to give workers resources and time to do own project is very closely related to the research of job crafting. Why do companies do that and why is it not a waste of valuable resources? Research and practical examples have shown, that when employees are given time to do whatever they want for their personal interest, most of the time companies also benefit (in-)directly (i.e., win-win situation). This might lead to another aspect of performance called „organizational citizenship behavior“ – people contributing to the team and to the success of the organization, on top of what is officially expected from their job descriptions.
HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY, AND DIGITAL WORK
People spend a huge share of their life-time at work. Work and health are therefore deeply connected.
There has been a long research tradition in IO Psychology on work motivation and occupational health. Recently these topics have been combined because people realized they are interconnected. A prominent model with regard to stress and health issues in IO psychology is about the balance of job demands and resources, summarized in the Job-Demands-Resources Model (5). On the one side, there are different demands – physical demands (for example in the hospital, lifting patient) and cognitive or emotional demands (working in a hospital with patients that are dying, lot of information causing a “cognitive overload”). In practice, people need resources to deal with these different facets of demands and create a balance between demands and resources. If employees do not have enough resources, this has a negative impact on their health. This leads to symptoms of being burned out and sick and the consequence that employees are not able to attend work. Therefore, when we people are equipped with enough resources or even extra resources, this leads to a positive effect on health and motivation.
Technology and digital transformation have the potential to provide „novel resources” and therefore support people and occupational health. For instance, there are robots that are working together with people, e.g. support lifting heavy objects. Sensors can be used to monitor mental and physical stress. VR or AR technologies can be used to train and practice critical tasks – for instance medicine students can train operations several times before they become doctors and work on humans. Besides all challenges and obstacles, we should not be afraid of technology. There are a lot of opportunities and up-sides and therefore useful resources that can sustainably support occupational health.
LIGHTEN UP THE FIRE FOR LIFELONG LEARNING
Technological progress and digital change lead to a faster pace of the economy, shorter innovation, and learning cycles. Lifelong-learning is essential – for employees to keep their spot on the labor market and for organizations to stay competitive. A university or vocational degree is not the end – organizations need to stimulate employees to learn continuously. A major question for organizations is, how to stimulate the intrinsic motivation of learning of their employees? By that, we don’t mean necessarily official and formal learning programs that most companies already have. The question is, how do you motivate people to use resources, think for themselves and outside the box. In this process, employees need support from the organization. Learning goals that focus on a mastery experience (see Episode 21 of the podcast) are a powerful instrument for organizations and leaders to foster and stimulate motivation for learning. Along with that, it is essential to set learning goals and prepare a transfer to action. It is important to learn and reflect, what can I make out of that, how can I apply this idea in my daily work, what can I do differently and how can I transfer knowledge into practice? Again, there is no „one-size fits all solution”.
What sounds easy, really affords a mind shift.
These concepts need to be lived and practiced continuously – if done correctly, they offer interesting opportunities.
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Literature and Links:
(1) Link to current research project: http://individualisierung-digital.de/
(2) Overview by the World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/
(3) Literature on Job Crafting
Demerouti, E., & Bakker, A. B. (2014). Job crafting. In M. Peeters, J. d. Jonge, & T. Taris (Eds.), Introduction to contemporary work psychology (pp. 414-433). Chicester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell
Gordon, H., Demerouti, E., LeBlanc, P., Bakker, A. B., Bipp, T., & Verhagen, M. A. M. T. (2018). Individual Job Redesign: Job crafting interventions in Healthcare. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 104, 98-114.
Bipp, T., & Demerouti, E. (2015). Which employees craft their jobs and how? Basic dimensions of personality and employees job crafting behaviour. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Behavior, 88(4), 631-655.
(4) s. TED talk: Job Crafting – Amy Wrzesniewski on creating meaning in your own work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_igfnctYjA
(5) Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2014). Job Demands-Resources Theory. In P. Y. Chen & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Work and Wellbeing: Wellbeing: A complete reference guide (Vol. III, pp. 37-64). Chicester, West Sussex, UK: John Wileys & Sons.